16 October 2011

A Lot to Swallow.

      Before returning on a late night train from the city to my suburban home, the yellow press suddenly becomes enticing, when in day light hours it's nothing of the sort. Hamburg's tabloid, the Mopo, normally suffices; but finding myself recently late in the evening at a community centre after a storytelling evening, I realised that any one of the strange free magazines on offer from all manner of unheard of groupings could easily rival the Mopo, for narratives of conflict, dirt & salaciousness. Picking up "Info of the Imprisoned" magazine, I certainly got a different kind of "info" than I had intended to.
        What got most under my skin was the story of a Mr Werner Braeuner, a prisoner in Sehnde, near Hannover, who went on hunger strike for 6 weeks in May & June of this year, before breaking of his strike after forcing a partial result from the prison authorities. Mr Braeuner's claim is that his fellow prisoners regularly defecate in the communal food, during preparation in the prison kitchens. As a result of his hunger strike he now has the right that some of his food is delivered to him directly & doesn't have to pass through the communal kitchens.
         The story reminds you of the most disgusting rumors from the primary school playground. Of course, it's impossible for an outside reader to be able to tell if the claims are true or not; but even if not, Mr Braeuner's claims & strike action are statements in themselves about how a politicised prisoner sees his world. You could attempt to brush off Mr Braeuner by labelling him delusionally insane; but if he is that, his seems to be an assertive, articulate & focussed type of insanity. I wish to add that I cannot support Mr Braeuner's wider politics in anyway whatever; but what does this particular case tell us?
       Allow me to quote (in English translation) Mr Braeuner's statement in the June 2011 issue of the aforementioned magazine, which is typical of his recent statements in various media:
"Prisons are homes of perfidy; they contain, in comparison to the population outside, a far above average number of people with personality disorders who exhibit extreme patterns of behaviour with the least possible cause. Possible triggers for these behaviour patterns can be, for example, a general feeling or being pissed off, or out of sorts - and the extreme behaviour can also be displayed without any discernable trigger. One possible reason behind an apparently arbitary negative behaviour is the psychological relief a disturbed person can experience, after carrying out a covert, antisocial action. It's therefore not uncommon that disgusting additions to the food are found in prison kitchens ... Although the other prisoners get to hear about these additions, most simply suppress this information, as they percieve themselves to be in a helpless situation. You swallow it, in the most literal sense, or you avoid particular dishes like the monthly hot-pot or the puddings. Everyone develops their own coping strategies. Disgust hangs constantly in the air, without ever becoming tangible; statements like 'the strawberry compot's got real colour today', start taking on a very particular meaning." (Werner Braeuner in "Gefangenen Info", June 2011).
And what's the moral of the story? Better the devillish tabloids you know than the free magazines you don't? Stick to the literary novel where you'll often be reading about the grubby dealings of the university educated but rarely about our prisons' grubbiness? Or simply make sure you're own mechanisms for suppressing unpleasant information are in good working order; take the whole thing, in other words, with a large pinch of salt.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment